What do you think of when you hear the word Latina?
The stereotypes are out of control. In fact, if you Google “Latina” every photo is of a hot, caramel colored girl in a tiny bikini, sometimes leaning over a lowrider or laying in bed. Oh and there are a couple of pregnant women surrounded by 12 kids. Go ahead. There is nothing you can say that will shock me. My husband likes to joke that he thought I’d be a little more Sophia Vergara and a little less Julie Bowen of Modern Family.
We have all heard the Latina stereotypes: voluptuous, passionate and hot-tempered Latinas. We fight to make up. We have lots of kids because of all the sex and Catholic refusal to believe in birth control. We all have thick accents and we live to serve our controlling husbands and walk our Chihuahua dogs. When we are not in the kitchen cooking from scratch in our high heels, we are in the bedroom working on another bebé. We are all nannies and mothers. You could believe this and it could be true in some cases, because even a broken clock is right twice a day but mostly, you would be dead wrong.
Latina is not a color.I have been assumed to be everything but Latina on several occasions: Caucasian is the immediate go to, if they notice that I don’t exactly fit the stereotype for Latina. I have dark brown hair, light brown eyes, fair-skin and not immediately identifiable features. My mom is Southern by way of Ireland, France, Italy, England and the Cherokee nation. Then the guessing begins. Italian? Greek? Jewish? It makes me feel as if those guessing think I’m anything other than what I actually am: Latina on my father’s side.
OK, I am just going to say it, I am a fair skinned Latina woman; possibly the whitest Latina you may well ever meet. I get it. It might be a little bit confusing for those who don’t realize that, like every other race, we come in every single color of the rainbow, with different combinations of hair and eye color and varying degrees of assimilation. We are not all the same. We don’t look the same. We don’t talk the same. We don’t come from the same place and we certainly, don’t all fit some concocted cartoonish stereotype. My daughters are beautiful with blonde hair and blue eyes, if you ask them what they are, they will tell you, “I am Latina!” Because, they are and it’s that simple.
Some are true. I think as a group many of us are loud, passionate people who place a great value on the family unit but not all of us. Many of us are determined, handworkers who demand respect and take pride in our work, no matter how menial the task. We want to succeed and we’ve always had to work for it; from the farms to gaining respect in a new country so we are not afraid to work our asses off for what we want.
For many of us, failure is not an option. When, in business, I am asked to be “more” Latina that bothers me. I am not insulted because I am proud of being Latina. But I am offended that you have the nerve to ask me to prove that I fit into YOUR idea of who I should be. How do I quantify myself to meet your expectations? Would you ask a homosexual to be “more gay” or an African-American to be “more black”? I don’t think so.
I totally get that if I market myself as a Latina blogger, people expect me to be Latina and I am. It took me a long time to take ownership of that because I had spent so much time in my life feeling like I had to prove it. But when you ask me to be “more Latina” that insinuates that you don’t want me to be Latina, you want me to fit some misguided idea that you have of what it is to be “Latina”.You want more “spice”. That bothers me.
I am first generation Mexican American. I speak Spanish. I grew up immersed in the Latino culture. I may not have been born in Mexico, but my father was. I will not apologize for not meeting your stereotype. I don’t speak with an accent and every thing I do is not overtly “Latin” in nature because you know what Latin people are? We are just PEOPLE, just like you.
Well, maybe not like you (the person asking Latinos to prove their Latino-ness) because I am pretty sure you are an asshole and you might even be a little bit of a racist, or just really ignorant to my culture. We are not all built like Sophia Vergara (though I wish we were). We are not all oversexed, tequila drinking, hot-tempered caramel colored taco eaters who dance Cumbia. Well, mostly I am, with the exception of the caramel colored skin but many are not.